The SP PNG Hunters will face Fiji’s Kaiviti Silktails from the New South Wales Rugby League’s Ron Mercy Cup in the Melanesian Bowl challenge on Saturday at the Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka, Fiji (4:30pm kick-off).
Hunters chief executive Scott Barker told The National that the team left for Fiji after receiving a late invitation to participate in the trial match.
He said a squad of 18 players with the coaching staff transited through Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Barker said the match would be a great opportunity to prepare for the Hostplus Cup round one challenge against the Western Clydesdales next Sunday at the Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba.
This would be the second attempt by the two sides to get the match off the ground. The first Melanesian Bowl challenge was to be played at the Gold Coast last February but was cancelled due to bad weather.
“Yes, the Hunters will play the Silktail’s in the Melanesian Bowl this Saturday in Fiji. We were asked very late to participate in the match and it was only finalised on the weekend,” Barker said.
“The team flew out today (Tuesday) to prepare for the match. We are all looking forward to the match after last year’s event was cancelled on the Gold Coast due to extreme bad weather.
“It is another good chance for the players and coaches to prepare for the Hostplus Cup competition.”
Silktails executive director Stephen Driscoll told Fiji Times that the clash against the Hunters would be a good test for them as well before their season starts.
“We’re also looking at the Hunters to give us a really good idea of where we are at before our season proper begins in the NSWRL,” Driscoll said.
“From our end it’s a great chance to test ourselves against a Queensland Cup side – a grade higher – who are also former Queensland Cup premiers.
“Being a PNG team, just gives the match more relevance as well as both clubs strive to give their respective players a platform to play in the Australian domestic rugby league competitions.”
Driscoll said there was extra incentive for the two high-profile rugby league teams to play.
“Sigatoka is a traditional rugby area but we’ve got a strategic plan there. We set up a gymnasium at the local high school there so this match is a great opportunity to showcase rugby league.”
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS